On Patrol In A Living Complex

Written By: Joel Council
This note is a continuation of the “On Patrol in the Shopping / Business Plaza”, and addresses patrolling a living complex such as an apartment complex or private community. A living situation is one of my favorite sites to patrol. I have no idea what I will find or where and this ever-changing nature of the beast is interesting to me. There is always something to find in a living situation because a lot of people live there, keep their possessions there, and make it their home.

The patrol scenarios encountered are going to be from a perspective of patrolling an apartment complex / private community. These are events you can look for while taking a stroll with your family, hanging out by the pool, or walking your dog. As stated in the previous Patrol note in regards to suspicious activity, DO NOT CONFRONT THE SITUATION.  The best thing you can do is to observe the incident and call the police. Do not put yourselves at risk.

Are there vehicles violating the rules of the property / law?
One of the most common complex rules is no unauthorized parking. This can take several different forms such as parking in violation of an assigned space, parking in permit required parking, parking in violation of visitors parking, etc. Depending on the rules of the property, notify property or on-site security and see if the offending vehicle can be cited or towed.

Is there property damage?
Property damage can come in a variety of forms including normal wear and tear, age, storm damage, faulty equipment, and general carelessness. Traffic accidents are not uncommon and there always seems to be maintenance problems such as broken sprinklers, lights out, broken locks, etc. Most of the damage I see on patrol is in a complex and should be reported to property management and also the police as required.

 Are any of the vehicles in the area occupied?
Are vehicles parked by themselves, do they have a lot of items piled up in them, are the headrests not visible due to the seat being leaned back, have people been sitting in their car for a long period of time? A lot of times when I find occupied vehicles late night / early morning, there will be people inside drinking, smoking dope, having intimate relations, etc.

Are there unfamiliar vehicles driving around?
Sometimes parking can be hard to find and people have to circle a couple of times before finding a spot. However, if vehicles are circling several times and there appear to be available parking spaces, they could be lost, waiting for a friend, or up to no good. Panel vans are a favorite of people committing thefts as well. They can drive up, take something as large as a motorcycle, and jam out before they are observed. Keep your eyes open for unfamiliar vehicles.

Do people or vehicles leave the area as I drive in?
This is an immediate red flag and I will follow them to get a description and a license number. I have driven onto properties and seen up to a dozen people scatter and go running for their vehicles. It was a local group that would hang out, drink, smoke dope, spray graffiti, and hassle people. If I could a deter the group by myself just by driving my vehicle, there is no reason complaining residents should tolerate such behavior without calling the police.

Are people hanging out after hours?
Most of the facilities such as pools, laundry rooms, outdoor courts, common areas, etc. will close in the 9 – 11pm range. People hanging out in these facilities after hours can be doing such things as making loud noise, sneaking into the pool area for intimate relations, or trying to sleep in laundry rooms.

Are there constant comings and goings including at unusual hours?
This type of foot traffic could be a home business, but could also signify an illegal type of business including drug activity. I had observed unusual traffic frequenting a location and had my officer report it to one of the police detectives he knew. The detective checked it out. In the coming days after that, the person who was responsible for the location disappeared and we never saw them again.

Are there maintenance problems?
Broken sprinklers waste a lot of water, especially since we have been asked to conserve our local resources.  Report dark spots caused by lights out, wasted water, and other maintenance problems to your property management.

Are the vehicles secure?
Car burglars love to walk through complexes looking for unsecured vehicles. Unless I can see broken glass on the ground, it can be difficult to tell if a vehicle has been broken into. This is why it is important to make sure that all your vehicle doors are closed, locked, all your valuables are secured inside your residences, and that garages are kept closed when not in use.

Is there fresh graffiti?
Any graffiti, especially if it is gang-related needs to be reported immediately. If it is not covered immediately by property management, report it to the police. See my note on “Graffiti Control” for resources. The last thing you want is some kind of a turf war waging in your complex.

Are there unfamiliar people walking around?
I will contact unfamiliar or suspicious behaving people in a complex to establish if they live there. Visitors are normally required to have a resident or property representative with them at all times for them to have a valid reason to be on the property. If people are walking around without an authorized party, I will have the resident come out or advise the subjects to leave property.

Is there loud or unusual noise?
Loud parties are common and can be a real nuisance, especially in an apartment complex. It is also not uncommon to come across loud domestic altercations whether verbal or physical. All of these are examples of what police respond to and handle on a daily basis.

Does something just not feel right?
One night while I was driving through a complex, I made a turn onto one of the perimeter alleys. There was an elderly woman walking towards me. A distance behind her, was a group of three male juveniles who appeared to be closing in on her location. After seeing my vehicle, the group ducked through a hallway into the interior of the complex. I alerted my on-site officer, we tracked down who they were, and turned in a report to property for suspicious activity. The group had a history of causing problems including theft. In this case, a possible robbery had been diverted.

Remember, the Sheriffs / Police in Ventura County are concerned for the citizens they serve and go above and beyond to protect our interests. They usually have a quick response time depending on the time, so if you have something, call it in. The police constantly refer to us as their eyes and ears and rely on us to inform them when something is wrong. See the note on “Reporting an Incident” if you do find something strange. Good luck and be safe!
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